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People ask me this all the time. How do I get such dark backgrounds on my drawings. The answer is complex, so I will step it out below.

1) The paper you use MATTERS! I use only Bristol, which is 2 or 3 times thicker than drawing paper, so it has a strong tooth to the paper
2) I use either B or 2B. The softer you go (3B-9B) the more wax is in the graphite, which makes it like a crayon and hard to blend.
3) I KEEP the pencil SHARP, and I hold it SIDEWAYS.
4) I do small sections at a time
5) I TURN the pencil in my fingers as I darken the area. This also helps keep the pencil sharp.
6) I use a back and forth scraping motion, that I can FEEL dig into the paper.
7) I end up going back over it more than once before finished, in a different direction.
8) I LATER use a harder pencil (H, F) and go over the dark area again
9) I use a "workable spray fixative" made by Krylon which reduces glare
10) I never use a flash on the camera when taking the photo of it
11) I ONLY take the photo during the daytime, under natural light, by laying it on the carpet near a window.
12) I NEVER use a software program to darken the photo of the drawing

I hope this helps?
  • Listening to: Andrew Belle
  • Eating: Port wine Cheese and Triscuts
  • Drinking: Starbucks French Roast Coffee
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:iconsallysuiker:
sallysuiker Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thankyou for sharing this, makes a BIG difference in my drawings. I'm going to make a picture of them tomorrow ( now I know only to do this in daytime :)
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:iconbrokenviolet:
BrokenViolet Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2009  Student Traditional Artist
well that's helpful! and it's almost the same way I do to have dark background or dark areas!
that makes me proud! lol

thanks for sharing :heart:
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:icondoctor-pencil:
Doctor-Pencil Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
sure! most welcome!! :D:D
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:iconilojleen:
Ilojleen Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2009   Traditional Artist
Some good tips, congrats and thanks for sharing :D
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:iconshorigurr:
ShoriGurr Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2009
(laughs) I just press REALLY hard and avoid blending like the plague.

It may be a rather limited opinion, but I feel that crisp details and contrast make the drawing, and that blending ruins EVERYthing.And I'm a stubborn one, 'cause by #2 pencil and computer paper do fine for most stuff.

It's on the big stuff that I start to desire just a slightly more finished feel (and less carpel tunnel), and for that you have given me a wondrous direction.

Thank you!
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:icondoctor-pencil:
Doctor-Pencil Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I hear you on the blending. I am learning not to blend every part of a drawing? I'm going to do a charcoal soon and maybe a rough sketch?
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:iconshorigurr:
ShoriGurr Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2009
eek, charcoal. So very messy! Do you work much with it? I've played around with it a few times, but it's so hard to get the crisp details a normal pencil will give you, even though the finished product looks more balanced.
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:icondoctor-pencil:
Doctor-Pencil Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
ya I've never worked with charcoal, and would assume too that I would lack the ability to achieve details that I have come to enjoy using pencils, but who know? Maybe I do the eyes with pencil, and the rest with charcoal pencils (less mess)? :D
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:iconlee100188:
lee100188 Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2009
cheers advice rick and i have experimented with this technique but i dont use bristol i use heavyweight paper which is still thick but as a slight texture. :)
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:iconsvdk92:
SvdK92 Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Cool, I'll try that sometime
For black background I use Charcoal and then blend it with a blending stick, this works for me. I only did it once though...
And I'll have to find a way to get better quality paper...
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:iconhumnabuzz:
humnabuzz Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009
oh..and thanks for the tips..:) :blowkiss:
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:icondoctor-pencil:
Doctor-Pencil Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
sure thang!!! :D:D
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:iconhumnabuzz:
humnabuzz Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009
i just ruined my latest pic with fixatif..it dripped..:( well didnt totally ruin it..but

i totally forgot i wanted to throw that can away..damn it..
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:icondoctor-pencil:
Doctor-Pencil Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I use Krylon workable fixative, and sparingly at that. Just a 5-8 second blast, covering the whole drawing does it? :D
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:iconhumnabuzz:
humnabuzz Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009
thats the same that i use..but i guess i got a bad can..oh well..shit happens
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:iconitsdanidee:
ItsDaniDee Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
uhm I'm using Canson paper...White fine grain paper as it sais on the front page. I never really thought about the paper at all. Maybe I should go with different paper then...hmm


thanks for that btw...I'll keep that in mind
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:icondoctor-pencil:
Doctor-Pencil Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I first started with Canson and Strathmore drawing papers. Medium tooth mainly. BRISTOL paper comes in smooth and vellum. It is thicker, and therefore can take more pencil abuse? It's harder to destroy the tooth. I have yet to try Bristol Vellum, but now after getting feedback from some peeps here, I am dying to try it. Apparently, it is better for the darker type drawings I have come to draw? GL :D
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:iconitsdanidee:
ItsDaniDee Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
hmm I think I have to try out this Bristol paper then if I can find it somewhere. Thanks for all the tips. They're really helpful :)
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:icondustyknives:
DustyKnives Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You mean the Bristol is vellum finish, not smooth? Smooth doesn't have the teeth like vellum does, and I find myself liking vellum more. =P

I knew most of this from experience already, but I do find your re-drawing with a harder pencil on the dark areas intriguing. What effect does that make? Glare-reduction, perhaps?
Reply
:icondoctor-pencil:
Doctor-Pencil Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I just had a friend tell me about vellum. I have never tried it, but rather picked "Bristol smooth" (Strathmore 300 series) after just reading them in the Blicks art store. Now, based on your 2nd recommendation, I am dying to try vellum!!

I just found that going over the dark areas later with a harder pencil tends to fill in some of the missed areas, and actually blends the existing, darker graphite? Give it a try? :D
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:icondustyknives:
DustyKnives Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Ahh...I have Bristol smooth 400 series in a 9" x 12" pad, but I highly dislike it. The whole feel of the paper just...I don't know how to describe it. Vellum feels smooth, but has enough tooth to really make a drawing, at least for me, have character and depth.

Also, that makes sense, but what I normally do with that is to smudge with a tortillion and then re-draw over top of it. However, given this new idea, I shall definitely try that. ;)
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:icondoctor-pencil:
Doctor-Pencil Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
well, then I've bought my last smooth pad? Fo sho gonna try the vellum!!

Oh, I also sometimes rub off the excess (dark areas) with toilet paper (make sure it has no lanolin etc in it) so that it becomes a dull finish, then I repeat the initial process with either hard or softer pencils? It tends to re-accept the graphite again? I'm no expert. I got tired of repeating myself, cuz so many folks ask me haha!
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:icondustyknives:
DustyKnives Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Don't give up on smooth, vellum is only my preference! =P Just try it, like I've tried the smooth! :lol: But if/when you do, be sure to let me know how well you like it. ;P
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:iconralpad:
Ralpad Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009
this helps thanks
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:icondoctor-pencil:
Doctor-Pencil Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
sure thang!! :D:D
Reply
:iconmasterrussia:
masterrussia Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I was doing pretty much everything wrong, so thanks again!
even just changing one or two things to start with helps a lot!
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:icondoctor-pencil:
Doctor-Pencil Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
it's just what I finally found worked best. Glad it helped! :D:D
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:iconfacial-tic:
Facial-Tic Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Professional Filmographer
nice, some good advice, thanks for the write up! :la:
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:icondoctor-pencil:
Doctor-Pencil Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
most welcome! :D:D
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:iconigorxxx70:
Igorxxx70 Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009
Thanks for the help. I think these tips are very useful. I have never tried the harder pencil back over the soft.
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:icondoctor-pencil:
Doctor-Pencil Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
it tends to blend the already darker graphite? :D
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:iconigorxxx70:
Igorxxx70 Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2009
Thanks, I'll try it next time
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:iconcptdesign:
CptDesign Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009   Traditional Artist
really nice, it's a little problem to find good paper here in small town in croatia...
and i use scanner and that is not so good but i don't have better solution... yet.
my way to make dark areas is simple... sharp 3b or 4b pencil and brightness and contrast in photoshop cs4
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:icondoctor-pencil:
Doctor-Pencil Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
have you tried to order it online? Do a Google search for "Strathmore paper" :D
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:iconcptdesign:
CptDesign Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2009   Traditional Artist
well, i could and i think i will... via e-bay :D
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December 21, 2009
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